Arlak, Knights looking to build on record-breaking season
After coming off of one of the best years in the history of the program, senior Katherine Arlak and the Rutgers women's tennis team look to continue its strong run into the fall season.
The Scarlet Knights finished last season with an overall record of 16-5 and an 8-2 mark in Big East matches, which Arlak believes has encouraged the team to work harder and raise the bar for expectations.
"We know we can do better than last year, and as we continue to do better, our expectations are higher for ourselves," she said.
Not only did the Knights impress many with their athletic talent, but they also blew people away with their outstanding academics.
Arlak, along with six of her eight teammates, were named International Tennis Association Scholar-Athletes and 2009 Division I All-Academic Team by the ITA.
But those honors did not come easy.
"It's a lot of work," Arlak said. "To balance academics, tennis and practice is tough, but you have to realize that academics are equally as important as tennis, if not more."
Not only must Arlak concentrate on tennis and school, but she must also focus on her role as a leader and role model to her younger teammates.
"The seniors influence the spirit and culture of the team the most, and it's something I impress upon all the seniors," head coach Ben Bucca said. "I know that Katherine, in particular, is more than capable to fill those roles."
Arlak enjoys her role as one of the leaders on the team but was unaware of how large of a role she would actually play as a senior until this year.
The key to her success as a leader and role model is portraying her best in work ethics and setting standards for the way that things should be done.
Coming from a town where tennis is not the biggest attraction, Arlak took up the sport after watching her sister, Alex, an assistant coach on the team.
"I don't know how my sister got involved, but once she did I started playing and taking lessons and then eventually I started to play competitively," she said.
Competiveness is exactly what Arlak and the team will bring into this fall season as they prepare to beat last year's record and take on Big East rivals, including Syracuse and Marquette.
Despite the fact that they virtually have the same team as last year — with the exception of Polina Zaretser, who graduated — RU knows that there is still room for improvement.
"With the Big East there's more in it, but we don't take any team lightly, whether we're playing a Big East or Ivy League school," Arlak said.
Arlak's strong determination to win and her work ethic do not go unnoticed by her teammates and coach.
"She has the type of personality where the players get along with her and she competes and wants to win, and everyone on the team, I know, really admires her for her desire to win," Bucca said.
Being that this is her final year at Rutgers, Arlak's desire to win is even greater since her tennis career is winding down.
But winning is not everything to Arlak, as she also hopes that the team continues on the successful academic path it has been on for the past few years.
"I know everyone will work hard so I don't think it will be a problem to accomplish the goals that we want to," she said.
Arlak and the Knights spring into action Sept. 16 in a scrimmage against Long Island University at the RU Tennis Complex.